It was my first voyage and our ship was going to pass Gibraltar in the early evening. Patches of sunlight filtered down through the heavy clouds as I stood on the deck, eager to see the Rock which was the subject of so many legends and stories and said to be one of the Pillars of Hercules of antiquity. The Rock of Gibraltar is located at the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea. Its strategic location and history have made it a symbol of solidity and strength. It was cold, but I could not leave the deck to fetch a jacket for myself incase I missed seeing some interesting feature of Gibraltar. For many years, I had been fascinated by its eventful past spanning 1200 years of Moorish, Spanish and British Rule and now at last I had the opportunity to see Gibraltar as we sailed past. The Rock was quite a distance away and barely visible in the horizon. A ship passed by and I waved absent-mindedly to those standing on the bridge as I waited impatiently to get a clearer view of Gibraltar.
Far away, to the right, something seemed to flash for a moment. I could make out a grayish object streaking out of the water in a graceful arc. It was a Dolphin- the first I had ever seen. Then I saw another and yet another, until the sea seemed to be filled with these mammals. They propelled themselves out of the water and then dived back, cutting the surface of the waves cleanly and almost inaudibly. They seemed to be all around our ship. They were grey in colour but the sunlight striking the water on their backs gave them a silvery glint. Their performance was smooth and effortless, almost as if they realized that they were being watched by an audience. Those that traveled in pairs moved with each other in total harmony.
Just then one of the dolphins leapt out, balanced on its tail and then fell back into the water with a loud splash. Some of the others around him started imitating him. Their exuberance reminded me of a group of boisterous children playing follow the leader at a school picnic. They were so close that I could see their clownish faces stretching into ingratiating grins. I don’t know how long I stood there watching these enchanting creatures, for there was a sense of timelessness as they played in the golden pools of sunlight water.
The dolphins were mere specks in the distance but I stood on the deck, straining my eyes until I could no longer see them. I realized with a start that I had not thought about Gibraltar ever since I had set my eyes on the dolphins. The rocky promontory was very close and I could see the large rain water catchments, a village and even motor cars on the roads. But even as I looked at the steep and almost inaccessible Eastern side of Gibraltar, my mind was still recalling the golden moments spent with the dolphins. An inanimate rock, however famous, just could not compare with exquisite living creatures. I have been to many dolphin shows over the years but nothing can beat the magical experience of watching those dolphins off the shores of Gibraltar.